Miyagi Michio was an exceptional composer as well as a famous performer in the Ikuta-ryū koto tradition. The organization which controls and maintains the legitimacy of the Ikuta-ryū works as transmitted by Miyagi Michio as well as his own works, as well as the artistic standards, is called the Miyagi Sōke. Miyagi became a professional koto player when he received his Ikuta-ryū kaiden (specialist) certification from Nakajima Kengyō on Sept. 1, 1905 at the age of 11. At this point in time, Miyagi was entitled to start his own sōke. After his death, the title was handed down to his wife, Sadako, then to his niece Kiyoko, and then to her sister, Kazue. The Miyagi Sōke operates the Miyagi School.
Miyagi Sōke History
Miyagi Michio 1894-1956
Miyagi Michio was born in the Sannomiya foreign sector of Kobe in 1894, and in 1902, at the age of 8, he was diagnosed with complete blindness. At this time, he was apprenticed to Nakajima Kengyō II and started down the road to becoming a koto performer. In 1905 he received his specialist certificate.
In 1907, due to family circumstances, he moved to what is now Incheon, South Korea, and in 1909 he composed his first work, Mizu no Hentai (Transformations of Water). With lofty ambitions, he moved to Tokyo in 1917, and in 1919 he held the first recital of his own compositions. In 1920 Miyagi, along with Yoshida Seifu and Motoori Nagayo he held a concert titled “Shin Nihon Ongaku Dai Ensōkai” (Great Concert of New Japanese Music). After that, the New Japanese Music movement took off in the early Shōwa (1926-1989) years. In 1925 he appeared on the first radio broadcast in Japan.
In 1927 Miyagi signed an exclusive recording contract with Victor Records. In 1929 he composed “Haru no Umi,” in 1930 he became a lecturer at Tokyo School of Music (now Tokyo University of the Arts Music Department) and in 1937 he was promoted to the rank of professor. During that time, in 1932, he performed “Haru no Umi” with French violinist Renee Chemet. Subsequently the sale of the recording of that performance in Japan, the U.S. and France brought him fame. Post-war, in 1948 he was appointed as a member of the Japan Art Academy. In 1950 he received the first Broadcast Culture Prize, and in 1951 the Miyagi Kai was formed.
In 1953 Miyagi traveled to Europe as Japan’s representative to the International Folk Music and Dance Festival. On June 25, 1956, heading for a concert tour in Kansai, he fell from a train and lost his life at the age of 62. He composed more than 400 works, made improvements to musical instruments, and invented the 17-string bass koto, the 80-string koto, the tan-goto, and the dai-kokyu. He was also a celebrated essayist and published 10 volumes of essays, including “Ame no Nenbutsu.”
Miyagi Sadako 1889-1968
Miyagi Sadako was born in 1889 in Otsu city, Shiga Prefecture, and in 1918 she began studying with Miyagi Michio. In March of the same year they married and she supported him through all of his hardships. After Miyagi’s death she took on the roles of the Miyagi Sōke, Honorary Chair of the Miyagi Koto Association, and the Chair of the Board of the Miyagi Hall (now the Miyagi Michio Memorial Hall). Sadako died in December 1968.
Miyagi Kiyoko 1905-1991
Miyagi Kiyoko was born in Otsu city, Shiga Prefecture in 1905. In 1918 she moved to Tokyo and began studying with Miyagi Michio. From that time, she worked closely with Miyagi, and after his death she led the organization as Miyagi Sōke and the Chair of the Miyagi Koto School. As a successor to Miyagi she actively promoted his artistry as a teacher and performer. As a leader of the koto world, her activities were wide and varied. In 1971 she became a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts; in 1978 Chair of the Ikuta-ryū Kyōkai (Ikuta School Association) and Chair of the Board of the Miyagi Michio Memorial Hall; in 1983 a Preserver of Important Intangible Cultural Properties (Living National Treasure); in 1985 Chair of the Nihon Sankyoku Kyokai (Nihon Sankyoku Association; in 1986 a member of the Nihon Geijutsuin (Japan Art Academy); and in 1988 she was awarded the Kun Santō Zuihōshō (Third Order of the Sacred Treasure).
Miyagi Kazue 1912-2005
Miyagi Kazue was born in Sosa, Korea (at that time a Japanese colony). In 1921 she moved to Tokyo and began studying with Miyagi Michio. From that time, she worked closely with Miyagi, and after his death she led the organization as Miyagi Sōke and the Vice Chair of the Miyagi Koto School. Upon her sister Kiyoko’s death she became the Miyagi Sōke and Chair of the Miyagi Koto School as well as Chair of the Board of the Miyagi Michio Memorial Hall. As a successor to the Miyagi she actively promoted his artistry as a teacher and performer, and in 1986 she was awarded the Orders of the Sacred Treasure.
In 1951 at the age of 8 Makise began studying with Miyagi Michio, and after his death continued her studies with Miyagi Kiyoko and Miyagi Kazue. In 1959 she began studying shamisen with Abe Keiko. In 1965 she graduated from the traditional music department of Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku (Tokyo University of the Arts) and won the Miyagi Prize. In 1968 she received her Master’s degree from Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku, and in the same year she married Makise Kikuo, a relative of the Miyagi family. From 1969-1978 she taught at Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku. Between 1969 and 1989 she performed overseas 11 times, including a concert in the U.S., the 100th anniversary of Japanese-Brazilian Friendship Concert, and the Second Miyagi Koto Association Brazil concert.
From 1998 to 2011 she taught at Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku every other year. She served in the role of the Miyagi Sōke from the last years of the previous sōke, Miyagi Kazue’s, life, and in May 2013 she became the Miyagi Sōke.
She is currently the Miyagi Sōke, Honorary President of the Miyagi Koto Association, Director of the Miyagi Michio Memorial Hall, Director of the Nihon Sankyoku Kyōkai, Director of the Ikuta-ryū Kyōkai, and Chair of the Miyagi Gassōdan (Miyagi Koto Ensemble).
Miyagi Gassōdan (Miyagi Koto Ensemble)
The Miyagi Koto Ensemble was formed in 1933 in order to improve ensemble playing techniques. Originally called the “Miyagi Sha Kenkyūbu Kai” (The Research Association of the Miyagi School), within two years it became a performance group and was renamed the Miyagi Koto Ensemble. It underwent many changes in the following years, and in 1969 it was restructured under the supervision of Miyagi Kiyoko and Miyagi Kazue into the current organization. The public performances of this newly-established groups began on January 2, 1970 with an appearance on Kansai TV’s Special New Year’s Concert. Over the years the group’s activities have included concerts throughout Japan, radio and television concerts, and recordings. The group’s repertoire includes not on the works of Miyagi Michio, but also everything from the classics to modern compositions. The groups has received critical acclaim for its activities, and in 1976 was awarded the Award of Excellence from the Agency of Cultural Affairs.
Miyagi Gassōdan member
Chieko Mori / Mikiko Ōura / Namie Sano / Shihomi Kurematsu / Masako Mimori / Junko Shingū / Hiroko Iwaki /Masae Yoshizawa / Teko Kamijō / Shōko Murata / Michiko Matsui / Kyōko Ichihashi / Kuniko Obina / Junko Nozawa / Kahori Tatara / Shingo Ikegami / Chiaki Endō / Sayuri Sakamoto / Reiko Ōshima As of the end of 2016